From the Inquirer
This is a first hand account from someone who was really in the board room!
So Billy Esposo, bug out! Stay in the corner and chump your burger!
Editor’s note: Below is what the author, a member of the CCP Board of Trustees, calls as a “Reflection on the Controversial Exhibit at the CCP.”
I am writing this reflection as a response to Florangel Braid’s [she is a well known human rights and communications personality. She is even one of the members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. With that resume, watch out!] observations on the forum shortly after the CCP executive board meeting on Friday, Aug. 5, convened by Raul Sunico, CCP president, to discuss the brewing controversy spawned by the exhibit “Kulo,” and also to reiterate some points I raised during the meeting. [The Franciscan already raised some points.]
Present in that meeting were Sunico; Emily Abrera, chair of the board of trustees; trustees Braid, Isabel Caro Wilson, Nedy Tantoco, Carol Espiritu, architect Cristina Turalba and myself. [Full house?]
I was provided a copy of Nick Lizaso’s letter of objection to the exhibit and Antonio Yap’s e-mail with the same objection. [two already objected.]
To my recollection, there were six trustees who were opposed to the exhibit: Sunico, Tantoco, Wilson and I, who were present, and Lizaso and Yap, who sent their objections by e-mail. Those who were in favor of the exhibit were Abrera, Braid and Espiritu. [Six against three, yet it pushed through?!?]
At the end of the meeting, Abrera said she was not calling for a vote, but only to consult with the board members, and that the exhibit could not be closed due to the contract that provided for the use of the venue until the third week of August. [Of course! The vote should have been done before the contract was even signed! Abrera knows about this being an advertising luminary and all that jazz!]
Of course, heated exchanges were made during the board meeting. I, for one, restated my own expression of freedom of speech, which I sent by cell phone at the very start of the uproar occasioned by the exhibit, in an equally dramatic fashion: “May the families of those who rejoice in the insult against heaven be cursed for seven generations, and may their households be consumed with misery for the same length of time.”
I added that it should not disturb those who do not share my faith, and should it ever happen, they can shrug it off as mere coincidence, since the connection cannot be proven empirically.
I subscribe to the liberal humanism of Pope John Paul II, of revered memory, specifically with regard to culture and the arts.
The Gospel passage “…that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (Plenitude of Life—John 10:10), has always been the reference of my involvement in cultural work since the 1970s as we battled martial law, even as a founder of one of the first arts councils affiliated with the CCP from 1988 onward. [The friar has credentials, not like that fat obnoxious blob of noisy fat....No not you Billy! Sit down!]
That the CCP has accorded us, the Ibabao Arts Council of Calbayog, Inc. the Pilak honor in 2004 is a distinct recognition of our enduring work in the cultural transformation of our country. I believe this is also the principal reason why I was appointed to the CCP board of trustees in 2009.
The freedom that must come from this frame of reference is freedom of expression with an important caveat: It must not harm others. That freedom is based on one preeminent task, as secular humanism would passionately argue—the founding of a just and peaceful society.
I submit, therefore, that the exhibit “Kulo” is an incendiary attack against Christian faith as whole, and the Catholic Church in particular. [Great power comes great responsibility. And men by nature are born with intellect and free will. And our free will empowers us to do whatever we want, but it will always have consequences because if just let any Little Jimmy do what he wants, then we will be one hell of a traffic jam. That is why we have traffic signs, lights and enforcers. That is why we have laws. They are not meant to limit our freedom. They are there to ensure order and that we do not hurt anybody in pursuit of our own happiness to just do whatever we want in the name of freedom.]
As all art exhibits are founded on the so-called creative intent of the artists, the counter-discourse cannot be dismissed by the claim to so-called freedom of expression; it cannot hide behind constitutional guarantees, for the freedom of religion is also a paramount guarantee of a civilized constitution. [that is the word there folks!]
The unjust vexations suffered by Christians, Catholics in particular, occasioned by the exhibit at government-funded Cultural Center of the Philippines, might even give the wrong impression that the ruling political powers have let loose their hounds against the Catholic Church. [It looks like it! Prove it otherwise!]
Into the ‘Devil’s Labyrinth’
In the debate that ensued during the board meeting, I asked the presiding officer whether she would allow an exhibit that would feature a frame of the President treated in the same way as the debauched face of Jesus Christ in the exhibit.
She answered that President Aquino’s effigy has been burned on the street.
I said that I was not referring to anywhere else but the CCP.
Yes, she said. [GOOD SHE SAID THAT! NOW THAT IS ON RECORD!]
Then I wondered aloud: How would the Aquino family feel if there was an exhibit at the CCP that defaced Cory Aquino?
When the officer in charge of the Visual Arts Division (Karen Ocampo Flores) was invited in, I asked her if she would have allowed another exhibit, God forbid, that blasphemed the revered Islamic prophet.
She could not answer. She found the question difficult to answer; but she seemed not to have any qualms about giving permission to an exhibit that mocked Christianity. [Chicken?]
It was suggested that the exhibit also referred to the National Hero, Dr. José Rizal, who was a UST student and who attacked religious institutions.
I protested that Rizal never hurled an insult at God. He was not expelled by the Dominicans. To connect the exhibit to him is to abuse and dishonor his memory. [Which idiots like Humpty Dumpty of Intramuros always would want you to believe.]
When Espiritu wanted to dismiss the voices of protest as coming only from the Catholics, I told her that no God-fearing Christian would not consider the exhibit offensive—Catholic or not. [So what if it were only Catholics protesting, what is wrong with that? Would that make the case lose its credibility?]
I hastened to remind her that the CCP was funded by taxes which Catholics also paid. A trustee retorted that the bishops do not pay taxes. I argued that millions of Catholics like me paid taxes, directly or indirectly. At that point, I realized that the debate was pointless. I felt that the prejudice by some trustees against the Catholic Church precluded any further discussion.
You reap what you sow
If we argue for freedom of expression by allowing the “blasphemous” exhibit at the CCP, do we have the right to deprive those who were aggrieved or maligned by it to express their indignation as passionately and as strongly as the artists by their “artistic expression”? Are we not guilty of bigotry, if we want the Catholics to shut up because they are just Catholics? Wouldn’t such attitude invite the millions of Catholic faithful to take us to task?
It seems that it is now “open season” against the Church that paved the way for another Aquino to ascend the presidency via the much televised funeral where he was endorsed by his younger sister to the grieving nation. It is ironical that the Church that offered sanctuary to Corazon Aquino, in life and in death, should be the object and subject of attack by those who want to curry favor with the Palace.
Braid, who holds my utmost respect, wrote in her e-mail: “I was just wondering that while we are witnessing many abuses of human rights (on children, vulnerable minority groups, etc.), which certainly are more shocking, these holy defenders of our morals have gone out of their way to spew insult to ‘betrayers of public trust’ like us who certainly had no malicious intent. They even showed distrust by saying that this may have been timed with the Reproductive Health and Divorce bills. Which is farthest from the mind of Karen and our board.” [Beating the bush if you ask me. Settle the issue first Dr. Braid then we'll get back to your child abuse issue. Oh, by the way, the church were you belong also has its fair share of abuse scandals! FYI, Dr. Braid is not Catholic. She is a Protestant.]
The inference that the Church has been remiss in fighting for human rights is unfair and cannot be sustained, considering the broad involvement and advocacy by Church people on social issues. Lay people and priests have lost their lives in standing up for human rights. [Dr. Braid is infering that since Judas sent Christ to His death all Catholics are traitors. Since Peter denied Christ, all Popes deny Him too.]
The greater tragedy is the chasm between the Church, which stood up against martial law, and the liberals, who would want the Church to gobble up whatever is served to it, has widened. The recent abuses heaped upon the Church by the operatives of the “liberal” agenda now encourage disengagement from cooperation with government and distance from greater dialogue with liberal humanism. [Ask Braid where she was during those times.]
Redress of grievance
I concurred with the lawyer present that the matter should go to court, so as to define the limits to the constitutional guarantee on the freedom of expression. I would counsel the Catholics to write to their House representatives and the senators to voice out their concern.
Other recourses can include a boycott of companies and products that sponsor CCP programs and events. These recourses are more preferable to violence.
I am tempted to take the challenge to every parish… and bring the discourse to the attention of every tax-paying Catholic, that our Catholic voices matter.
There is an intensified clamor for the CCP chair and board to resign. Perhaps, it’s the more honorable and decent way to deflect the arrows that will be aimed at the presidency.
I have no qualms about resigning my CCP seat.
The author is a Franciscan friar and the moderator general of the Congregatio S. Francesco Peregrinorum (CSFP, or Pilgrim Brothers of Saint Francis). He is based in Punta Princesa, Cebu City, and is into cultural work as chair of the Pasundayag Cultural Network and Institute of Drama for the Development of Peoples, and executive board member of the ITI International Monodrama Forum and ITI Philippine Center.
If Mideo has a wooden phallus for his art, this Franciscan brother has the b***s to stand up for what is right and civil and best of all what his Catholic Faith teaches him.
Artistic license and freedom of expression are not licenses to freely insult anyone. The lot of Abrera and Braid will most certainly claim this is done in the US and other European countries. Well, wake up sisters. You are in the Philippines. What applies there does not necessary work here and among them hurting religious sensitivities.
Why are we so fast to defend anti black, gay slur while Abrera and Braid would want us to engage and dialogue over an obvious insult to Catholicism?
Not only was Mideo(cre) Cruz's work plain rubbish branded as art, the exhibit itself was meant to raise controversy and publicity which it obviously did!
Let us do it this way.
Let us make an exhibit showing the faces of Emily Abrera, Dr. Florangel Braid, Billy Esposo, Winnie Monsod, Mideo Cruz, Red Tani, Carlos Celdran...with wood-carved human penises for noses!
Well, I think Mideo, Red and Carlos would appreciate it.
Great thing Mideo got sued!